by Stephen Bedikian
During 1999-2000 a number of companies launched similar products, creating a new product category loosely defined as transaction management systems (TMS). Their systems integrated communications and document management and work-flow capabilities in order to improve the efficiency of the residential real estate closing process and make it more transparent, particularly for homebuyers and sellers. Their eventual goal was to support a paperless online closing that eliminated the blizzard of phone calls, faxes, and courier trips characteristic of the traditional closing process.
Despite producing award-winning products, many companies could not survive the industry’s long adoption cycle and were swallowed up by the industry’s traditional technology suppliers. Realty Plus Online and its Close Your Deal platform were acquired by First American. Fidelity National Financial affiliate FNIS purchased no less than three separate platforms: iProperty’s Chorus, Reez.com’s product originally called Reez.com, and Expeditrix’s SmartClose. Homestore’s eRealtor project, later dubbed DealTrack, did not survive the company’s restructuring and has never seen the light of day.
Out of this period, a handful of national players have emerged to compete in the category. This group includes two of the surviving new entrants, SettlementRoom and RealtyAssist with its partner Stewart Title Co., and several established technology providers: RamQuest, FNIS and First American’s SMS subsidiary. The systems currently available or expected to be relaunched shortly by these companies have matured into a legitimate product category.
Along with the maturation of these products has come a convergence in their basic functionality. Online order entry, status tracking, and online document delivery are core features of these products. Most systems provide task checklists that are customizable for each company’s unique work flow. These checklists are an important tool allowing all transaction participants to monitor progress and make sure the deal closes on time.
Two key features for title and escrow companies to look for are:
While system functionality is similar, the terminology used by each vendor to describe their products can be very different. The following glossary is provided to define major product functionality and establish a common basis for comparison.